Making Space for Agile Business Analysis using Lean

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The demands on an agile Business Analyst's time, energy and focus are really challenging. In a waterfall environment, we have a lot more time. We can sit and think, and we have more flexibility to ruminate about problems and solutions.

That's not always the case with agile. In agile environments, we're working in 1- to 4-week sprints. The luxury of taking weeks and months to figure out approaches and to develop requirements is just not there.

So how do we tackle this?

Give up on Perfection

Agile development doesn't produce perfect products. It's an iterative process. The whole idea of iteration is that you start with something and make it increasingly better, instead of trying to make it "right" the first time.

Voltaire's maxim against letting the perfect be the enemy of good applies here. The challenge is knowing when your product is good enough, and this should be be encapsulated in your acceptance criteria. To develop these criteria, define what "good enough" means to your customer, your enterprise, and any third-party stakeholders.

Adhere strictly to them. Do no more and no less.

Reduce Waste

Look for waste by examining how you use your most precious resources: (1) your knowledge, (2) your time, and (3) your energy.

Knowledge: Share your relevant knowledge with your team. Get the knowledge you need from them. Don't share or seek out excess knowledge. Keep things tight and focused.

Time: Focus your time on what will create value for your customers. This should be the majority of your workday. Keep things tight and focused.

Energy: You need energy to create value for your customers. When your energy is high, tackle the most difficult work. When it's low, do the most valuable work you're capable of. Don't use this as an excuse to let your feelings dominate your workday. Keep things tight and focused.

Wait a second... Don't we want to eliminate waste? No. Eliminating waste is not realistic. Trying to do so is decidedly non-iterative and non-Agile. Strive for regular, incremental improvements.

Focus on ROI(WR)

We're fond of discussing the return on investment of various techniques, platforms, etc. It's a useful (yet often impractical) metric for determining where to invest.

Consider a slightly different one: what is your expected return on incremental waste reduction? Among your current sources of waste, which have the biggest impact? Using this as a guide will naturally push us to tackle our biggest problems.

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I'll suggest a 15-minute time box to address these three areas. Spend five minutes on each, and figure out what one thing you will start doing today to increase your value.

Your customers, team, and management will thank you.